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How to Replace a Bathroom Sink Drain

There are many reasons for replacing a bathroom sink drain. Perhaps bacteria have built up, and replacement is needed as a health issue. Maybe there’s a leak. Or you’re installing new bathroom fixtures. Whatever the reason, replacing a bathroom sink drain is an easy DIY project.

Read on for a step-by-step look at replacing your bathroom sink drain. You’ll also find some frequently asked questions about sink drain replacement. Go through this post, and you’ll have all of the information and confidence you’ll need to replace your bathroom sink drain.

Water flowing into a bathroom sink drain

Removing the Old Drain Assembly

As a DIYer, you know the importance of having an uncluttered work area. If your bathroom sink is in a vanity or the area under your stand-alone sink is cluttered, remove everything so you’ll have room to work.

Once that’s done, you can get down to the real business of replacing your bathroom sink drain.

Unscrew the P-Trap

With your work area clean, you should easily see the P-trap. It’s a curved section of pipe screwed into the sink drain at one end and the sink drain pipe at the other.

Before you begin detaching the P-trap, get a bucket to catch any water that might leak from the trap, sink drain, or drain pipe.

With the bucket in place, turn off the water supply valve under the sink. The valve will be located somewhere along the pipe leading to the sink faucet.

Closing the valve eliminates the possibility of water damage if someone inadvertently turns on a faucet while the P-trap is removed.

Using an adjustable wrench to remove a P-trap. Replacing bathroom sink drain

If you have a metal drain assembly, you’ll need an adjustable wrench to loosen the nuts at each end of the P-trap.

You can unscrew the P-trap nuts by hand if you have a plastic drain assembly. Hold on to the P-trap as you’re removing it, and gently turn it upside down over the bucket to drain water from it.

If you have a metal P-trap, you should consider replacing it with a more durable plastic P-trap as part of replacing your bathroom sink drain. The standard size for a P-trap is 1 ¼ inches.

Detach the Drain Control Rod

If you’re replacing a bathroom sink drain with a stopper controlled by a rod at the bathroom faucet, you’ll need to detach the drain control rod. It will be attached by a screw and flange to the mechanism that operates inside the drain to open and close it.

Unscrew the Jamb Nut

Once you’ve freed the drain control rod, loosening the drain assembly is the next step in replacing your bathroom sink drain.

To do that, get a pair of adjustable pliers and loosen the jamb nut. This large nut secures the drain tailpiece, the first section of your drain assembly, to the sink.

Once the jamb nut is loosened, reach into the bottom of the sink and pull out the drain stopper.

Remove the Drain and Drain Flange

When the stopper assembly is removed from the drain, the next step in replacing a bathroom sink drain is to take off the drain flange.

The flange is the circular metal piece in which the drain stopper sits. You won’t be reusing the flange, so you can use a pair of pliers to remove it, without worrying about whether you damage it.

With the flange removed, you’ll see the old silicone caulk or putty that had sealed the joint at the sink drainhole and drain tailpiece. Use a caulk scraper to clear out the old putty, being careful not to scratch the sink.

Prepare the Drain Hole

Getting the drain hole ready for the new drain tailpiece is a simple matter of placing some silicone caulk — you can also use plumber’s putty — around the edges of the drain hole. That will seal the new drain flange to the sink, preventing potential water leaks at the joint.

Installing the New Drain Assembly

New drain assemblies are available online or at your local home improvement store. If your old drain hardware — particularly the drain control rod and its attachments — are in poor condition, get a new drain kit that includes those parts, to simplify the process of replacing a bathroom sink drain.

Set the New Drainpipe

The first step in installing your new drainpipe is to unscrew the flange assembly that tops it. Then, set the flange assembly into the drain hole, pressing it into the caulk you previously applied around the edge of the drain hole.

Once the flange is in place, screw the new drain tailpiece into it from underneath the sink. It’s very important at this point to ensure that the tailpiece is oriented correctly with the drain control rod. Otherwise, it will be impossible to assemble the drain for proper operation.

Once the tailpiece is positioned correctly, tighten the jamb nut at the top of the tailpiece to attach it firmly to the sink drain hole. You’ll need to use adjustable pliers to ensure a tight seal, a critical aspect of replacing a bathroom sink drain.

As the tailpiece and drain hole are being joined, excess caulk will be forced out of the area around the drain flange. That excess caulk can be removed by hand and discarded.

Adjust the New Drain Plug

Once the tailpiece is in place, it’s time to insert the new drain plug as the next step in replacing your bathroom sink drain.

At the bottom of the new drain plug, there will be a slot into which a pivot rod will be inserted. The pivot rod, either supplied with your drain kit or saved from your original drain, will fit through a hole located somewhere along the drain tailpiece. The hole is sealed against leakage by a locknut.

Once the pivot rod is in place, test it by moving it up and down while checking to see that the drain plug is moving correctly with it.

Attach the Drain Control Rod

With the pivot rod operating properly, the final step in replacing your bathroom sink drain is attaching the drain control rod.

To do that, simply insert the rod, either from your replacement kit or your original drain assembly, through the hole in your faucet assembly.

Next, slide the control rod bracket, either from your kit or from your original drain assembly, up the control rod.

At this point, you’ll slide a clip, with holes on either side, onto the pivot rod. Once the clip is on the pivot rod, slide the end of the control rod bracket onto the pivot rod.

With the end of the control rod bracket in place, bend the clip and slide its second hole onto the pivot rod. That sets the control rod in place while allowing it to move freely to control the opening and closing of the drain.

You may have to fiddle with the control rod and the pivot rod to get the drain operating smoothly.

Once that’s done, tighten the control rod bracket onto the control rod. Operate the drain a few times to ensure there are no leaks.

If there are no leaks, you’ve successfully installed your new bathroom sink drain!

Top view of a new bathroom sink

How to Replace a Bathroom Sink Drain Frequently Asked Questions

You’ve now learned how to replace a bathroom sink drain, but if you’re like most DIYers, you’ll want to know more. Read on for answers to some frequently asked questions about replacing a bathroom sink drain, to add yet another layer to your DIY skills.

Should metal sink drains be replaced with plastic components?

The short answer to this question is that yes, you should replace any metal parts of your bathroom sink drain with plastic components. The first reason for doing this is self-evident.

As you’ve no doubt seen, or will see, as part of replacing your bathroom sink drain, metal pipes will corrode over time, and could eventually leak.

Also important to the average DIYer is the fact that plastic drain parts will be cheaper than metal pieces.

As you look at plastic parts for replacing your bathroom sink drain, you’ll learn that there are two types of plastic available — ABS and PVC. For replacing your bathroom sink drain, you can use PVC parts.

Typically, ABS plastic is designed to handle high temperatures, such as you’d need for a kitchen sink where you’re cleaning pots and pans. There’s no real need for ABS plastic in replacing your bathroom sink drain, since you typically won’t be using extremely hot water.

Why is silicone caulk the best sealant for a new sink drain?

Two types of sealants are associated with bathroom sink maintenance — plumber’s putty and silicone caulk. But as you’ve learned, only one of them — silicone caulk — is recommended for sealing a sink drain.

Silicone caulk creates a stronger seal than plumber’s putty when replacing a bathroom sink drain. Plus, it’s more resistant to chemicals, so it should hold up better than plumber’s putty against toothpaste and other things going through a bathroom sink.

You should know, though, that silicone caulk can be difficult to remove. So, you’ll likely expend some extra effort when replacing your bathroom sink drain if the drain flange is attached with silicone caulk.

As a side note, if or when you replace your bathroom vanity, you’ll use silicone caulk to seal it against the wall to prevent moisture infiltration. Plumber’s putty is used strictly for sealing connections between plumbing components.

What are some tips for keeping a bathroom sink drain operating properly?

It should come as no surprise that your bathroom sink drain and pipes can and will trap hair, toothpaste, soap scum, and other gunk. Left unaddressed, that gunk can create unpleasant smells and slow or clog your drain.

And while you almost certainly do some regular cleaning in your bathroom, it’s possible that you don’t give much attention to your out-of-sight, out-of-mind sink drainage. However, removing debris from the sink drain on a weekly basis can keep you from having to deal with more serious issues down the road.

One thing to do is to remove the sink stopper and clean any hair or other debris from it. An old toothbrush or flexible drain brush will handily remove any gunk attached to the stopper.

If you have a rod-operated stopper, you’ll need to detach the rod by removing the screw adjacent to the rod next to the drain.

If your bathroom sink drain is severely clogged, there are a couple of home remedies you can try. For one, you can pour some baking soda into the drain and wash it through the system with boiling water.

Alternatively, using lemon juice along with baking soda cleans even more thoroughly, and adds a fresh scent to the drain.

A person using baking soda to clean a bathroom sink drain

What can be done to control rust that develops around the drain hole?

With some sinks, you may notice over time that rust begins to form around the junction of the sink’s drain hole and the flange surrounding it. To clean that rust, simply put some white vinegar into a spray bottle. Spray any rust spots and let the vinegar sit for a half-hour.

Once the vinegar has had a chance to work, use a soft scrubbing brush to remove the rust.

Wrapping up How to Replace a Bathroom Sink Drain

With guidance from this post, you have all you need for success in replacing your bathroom sink drain. And isn’t gathering new skills and boosting confidence in your abilities what DIY projects are all about? So gather your tools and materials and get to work, because you got this!

DIY Painting Tips has you covered if you’d like to explore more DIY opportunities to repair or improve your bathroom. Be sure to check out the posts on the easiest way to paint behind a toilethow to paint a bathtub, and how to address mildew and mold. Good luck with your DIY projects!